How Income Inequality Might Lead Students to Drop Out of High School

Drop-Out Rates Caused by Income Inequality?

Slate's Jordan Weissmann writes on a new study showing that boys from low-socioeconomic-status families are more likely to drop out in states with larger gaps between the poor and the middle class

by Slate, June 17, 2014

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How Income Inequality Might Lead Students to Drop Out of High School

How Income Inequality Might Lead Students to Drop Out of High School

New study shows that high school drop-out rates might be affected by income inequality. 

Like teen girls who give birth, Kearney and Levine suggest that when boys see middle-class life as a distant possibility, they become discouraged and give up on school. While a little bit of inequality might motivate some students to study harder, a lot of it might kill their motivation entirely. Or, as the researchers put it a bit more technically, “a greater gap between the bottom and the middle of the income distribution might lead to a heightened sense of economic marginalization such that an adolescent at the bottom of the income distribution does not see much value in investing in his/her human capital.”

Kearney and Levine aren't offering definitive proof that "economic despair" is driving down graduation rates, nor do they claim to. Rather, they're offering a compelling explanation for a phenomenon that doesn't seem to be explained especially well by other data, and one that fits pretty well with common sense.

 
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